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  • Keynote Address Delivered at the Mid-America Theatre Conference En Ser Inspirado | On Being Inspired
  • Irma Mayorga (bio)

Nudge a Mexican and she or he will break out with a story.


Above all else, it is about leaving a mark that I existed: I was here. I was hungry. I was defeated. I was happy. I was sad. I was in love. I was afraid. I was hopeful. I had an idea and I had a good purpose and that’s why I made works of art.


I want to open up my thoughts with three points of genealogy. A preface of a sort, if you will.

First genealogical point of order

This is not my first visit to the Mid-America Theatre Conference (MATC); however, it is only my second time attending. My first visit to the MATC was over twenty years ago. The conference was held right here in Kansas City, Missouri. The Mid-America Theatre Conference was enjoying its eighth annual convening. That year, prescient in its planning, MATC also held a “Mini-festival of Plays for Young Audiences.” About ten of my undergraduate student peers and I, along with our professor, Dr. Kaarin Johnston, had piled into vans and driven down from St. Joseph, Minnesota (north of the Twin Cities) to [End Page 301] present a play in the festival. I was not an actor in our group; I was the show’s costume designer. But Dr. Johnston strongly believed that I—a designer—should come to the conference nonetheless, that I should see in motion a conference dedicated to thinking on theatre. To further entice me, she dangled before me the allure of the conference’s keynote speaker. In 1988, the keynote speech was delivered by the esteemed theatre historian Oscar G. Brockett. She knew this would get me in the van, because she knew I was a Brockett fangirl. I may have been a designer, who had started off with the intention of becoming an actor—but through it all, I adored the stories and tales found in Brockett’s History of the Theater. Admitting this, I have now fully owned my life-long theatre nerdiness outright. And even though we were presenting, we also had to complete our theatre history homework for class the following week, so I had in tow Brockett’s fifth edition. And when Oscar G. Brockett took the podium for his keynote, I listened with his landmark book clutched in my hands, mesmerized and starstruck.

I have no idea what Dr. Brockett said that day. And that’s okay. However, I do remember being inspirited by the liveness of being in the same room with him, of putting a face and body to the person who had written all those pages of stories about theatre’s history. When he finished speaking to a mob of what seemed like raging theatre history fans (probably just his colleagues congratulating him afterward) gathered around him, Dr. Johnston urged me to go have Dr. Brockett sign my copy of History of the Theater. I may have been an ardent fangirl, but I was also shy. When his groupies dissipated I approached him, and he gladly and cheerfully signed my book, which I have always treasured.

At that time, I could never have imagined that I, like Dr. Brockett, would also one day obtain my doctoral degree in theatre studies from Stanford. When I was last here in Kansas City for MATC, I was a young Mexican American woman attending a small liberal arts school, trying to make a bit of my own history by becoming the first person in my familia’s entire existence to graduate from college. The enormity of returning to MATC, having obtained that goal, suffuses my thoughts as I speak from this podium.

Second genealogical point of order

Fangirl, and yet, I am not a theatre historian by training or degree. However, to do my work as a woman of color, Mexican American, Chicana-positioned [End Page 302] theatre artist-cum-scholar, I always find myself digging in history. Usually, I’m foraging through archives in which...


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